In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Coordination

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Reference Grammars
  • Coordinate Structure Constraint
  • Right Node Raising
  • Nonconstituent Coordination
  • Coordination of Likes
  • Agreement and Case
  • Comitative Coordination
  • Coordinated Wh-Words
  • Ellipsis
  • Coordination and Clause Structure
  • Psycholinguistic Studies
  • Semantic Issues

Linguistics Coordination
Grant Goodall
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0128


Coordination is a phenomenon in which two or more elements, known as “conjuncts,” are linked together, often with a conjunction such as “and.” Unlike subordination, in which one element is asymmetrically embedded within another, coordination gives the appearance of being symmetric in many ways. For example, the conjuncts are typically all constituents of the same category, and each conjunct could appear on its own in that position within the sentence. In addition, extraction (displacement of a phrase to the left edge of the sentence, as in wh-questions) may occur out of all conjuncts simultaneously, a phenomenon known as across-the-board extraction, but not out of just one (nor may a single conjunct be extracted). This restriction is known as the coordinate structure constraint, and it and many other aspects of extraction from coordinate structures have been studied extensively within both movement and nonmovement frameworks. By contrast, coordination does sometimes behave asymmetrically, in that some exceptions, which have been well documented and frequently discussed in the literature, exist to all of the aforementioned generalizations. Apart from issues of (a)symmetry, there are also some sentence types that are particularly associated with coordination. Two of the most well-known are gapping, in which two clauses are conjoined but the second contains no verb (e.g., “Mary ate a sandwich and John a pie”), and right node raising, in which two clauses with an identical final constituent are conjoined but this constituent is omitted from the first (e.g., “Mary ate and John devoured a ham sandwich”). Reconciling the rich array of empirical findings within coordination with standard assumptions about phrase structure (mainly developed in connection with subordination) has been a productive source of tension within theoretical syntax for decades. One strategy has been to assume that coordination is a variant of subordination, with the conjunction a head and the second conjunct its complement. Another has been to claim that a coordinate structure derives its properties not from the conjunction but from the shared features of its conjuncts. Still another has been to adopt a three-dimensional or multidominance analysis that cannot be represented with traditional phrase structure.

General Overviews

Progovac 1998a and Progovac 1998b give an extremely useful overview of generative analyses of coordination through the 1990s. Dik 1968, Goodall 1987, van Oirsouw 1987, and Johannessen 1998 each promote a particular analysis (Dik 1968 within a functional grammar framework; Goodall 1987 and van Oirsouw 1987 within a more government and binding orientation; and Johannessen 1998 within a minimalist framework), but they are still very useful as introductions to the main facts of coordination. Haspelmath 2004 is a good resource for finding analyses of coordination in particular languages.

  • Dik, Simon. 1968. Coordination: Its implications for the theory of general linguistics. Amsterdam: North-Holland.

    A far-ranging analysis of coordination using Dik’s functional grammar, in which relations like “subject,” “object,” and “head” play an irreducible role. Argues against transformational models of the time.

  • Goodall, Grant. 1987. Parallel structures in syntax: Coordination, causatives and restructuring. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Chapter 2 (pp. 17–97) in this monograph covers most of the topics traditionally addressed in generative treatments of coordination, together with some historical context.

  • Haspelmath, Martin, ed. 2004. Coordinating constructions. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    A collection of articles on coordination phenomena in a wide range of languages.

  • Johannessen, Janne Bondi. 1998. Coordination. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Not comprehensive in its scope, but this monograph provides a very accessible and useful survey of case and agreement phenomena in coordination across many languages.

  • Progovac, Ljiljana. 1998a. Structure for coordination: Part 1. GLOT International 3.7: 3–6.

    An overview of the main facts that need to be accounted for by any analysis, and a focus on those analyses that do not take the conjunction to be the head of the phrase.

  • Progovac, Ljiljana. 1998b. Structure for coordination: Part 2. GLOT International 3.8: 3–9.

    A survey of analyses that treat the conjunction as the head of the phrase. Also includes a very useful bibliography.

  • van Oirsouw, Robert R. 1987. The syntax of coordination. London: Croom Helm.

    A comprehensive analysis of coordination, with a useful overview of earlier treatments.

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